During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), a grounded ice sheet filled the Ross Sea Embayment in Antarctica and deposited glacial sediments on volcanic islands and peninsulas in McMurdo Sound and coastal regions of the Transantarctic Mountains. The flow geometry and retreat history of this ice are debated, with contrasting views yielding divergent implications for the interaction between and stability of the East and West Antarctic ice sheets during late Quaternary time. Here, we present terrestrial geomorphologic evidence and reconstruct former ice-marginal environments, ice sheet elevations, and ice-flow directions in McMurdo Sound. Fossil algae in ice-marginal sediments provide a coherent radiocarbon chronology of maximum ice extent and deglaciation. We integrate these data with marine records to reconstruct grounded ice dynamics in McMurdo Sound and the western Ross Sea. The combined data set suggests ice flow toward the Transantarctic Mountains in McMurdo Sound during peak glaciation, with thick, grounded ice at or near its maximum position between 19.6 and 12.3 ka. Persistent grounded ice in McMurdo Sound and across the western Ross Sea after Meltwater Pulse 1a (14.0−14.5 ka) suggests that this sector of Antarctica did not significantly contribute to this rapid sea-level rise event. Our data show no significant advance of locally derived ice from the Transantarctic Mountains into McMurdo Sound during the local LGM.

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